Life-altering devices mean Izabella can listen and speak
When the parents of Izabella Burgess found out that their daughter had a hearing loss their initial emotions were of shock, being scared and overwhelmed.
In the more than four years that have followed, those emotions have turned to amazement, surprise and hope.
Izabella is the youngest of Kim and Philip’s three children. She failed her newborn hearing screening and two months later an audiology appointment confirmed she had a permanent hearing loss in both ears. Further testing gave them the diagnosis that their daughter was profoundly deaf.
“My initial reaction to her first diagnosis was shock,” says the Hamilton mum. “I didn't enter that appointment expecting to receive the news I did. I was scared and I had no idea what it meant for Izabella's future.”
Like many couples who have a deaf child, there was no family history of deafness and they didn't know anyone who was deaf.
“It was very overwhelming, a busy time coming up to Auckland for appointments. We felt helpless as parents that we weren’t able to fix the problem for her,” Kim says.
“There was so much to learn – we were thrust into a whole new world and cochlear implants sounded very scary.”
Kim says once they had learnt more, coming to The Hearing House in Auckland and getting cochlear implants for Izabella was an obvious choice.
“For her to have the opportunity to be able to hear and speak….it’s life altering.
“She can go to kindy by herself, she can communicate with her friends and everybody around her in a way that is easily understood.
“She has so many opportunities and open doors.”
Kim says that just like most kids, Izabella, now four years old, is very resilient.
“She doesn’t know any different. She’s just doing life her way.”
The couple is “amazed” at the progress their intelligent and determined daughter is making when it comes to listening and using clear spoken language.
“She frequently surprises us with the new words she picks up and puts into context in sentences.
“At the beginning of our journey we had to teach her to recognise what sounds were. Recently, I heard Izabella singing at the top of her lungs a song about generosity, earlier in the week she was telling a story about the chaos in the world, on another occasion she told me she was looking through a telescope when peering through a half-eaten ice cream cone.”
The Auditory-Verbal Therapy programme run by The Hearing House teaches families how to model language at home. Izabella’s therapist Claire Kinera is impressed with the youngster’s progress and the input she has received from her family.
“Izabella’s language continues to grow and thrive thanks to her amazing family and her very supportive brothers Peter and Noah,” Claire says.
“Izabella’s language skills are equivalent to her friends of the same age, and her parents have worked hard to create a language rich environment to foster her progress.
“Izabella is a naturally curious child, and she is also very emotionally intelligent. This has led her to continue developing language skills that allow her to seek out information from others, and communicate her thoughts, ideas and emotions as well.”
Claire says it’s been fun getting to know Izabella and her family and see her “become her own person”.
Kim says The Hearing House has been there for them right from the start.
“We’ve had so much support. We’re able to make connections and relationships with other families. We come up for playgroup and it’s really nice for Izabella to see other kids with cochlear implants.
“I don’t know where we’d be without The Hearing House.”
Izabella is a very social young girl who has a great network of friends at kindy. She loves to sing and dance, she enjoys gymnastics, bike rides and playing with her older brothers Noah and Peter.
She has a fierce determination “that will see her through many trials”. She's kind, caring, fun loving, adventurous, and likes to be heard.
"I know without a doubt she will do great things with her life, whatever path she chooses to walk,” Kim says.
“I hope that she will give back to the community and people that have given so much to her, and inspire other deaf people.”
Izabella is one of the faces of this year’s Loud Shirt Day. The annual national fundraiser for The Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme is being held on September 28 and the theme is superheroes.
Kim says Loud Shirt Day is an important fundraiser for the two charities.
“I believe all deaf children and their families should have access to the quality services and support The Hearing House provides. These services truly make a difference in the lives of our deaf children allowing them the opportunity to learn to listen and speak.”
Kim says Izabella's kindy goes “all out” every year celebrating Loud Shirt Day.
“They encourage the children to dress up in the loudest clothes and teach the children what Loud Shirt Day is all about. Izabella will be very excited about dressing up in her favourite superhero outfit.”
She has also approached their sons’ school to see if they will get on board.
“I have a great workplace which celebrates Loud Shirt Day also, I can't wait to see what everyone wears this year.
“We encourage our family and friends to dress up in their loudest outfits and support such an amazing charitable organisation.”